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tv   Washington Week  PBS  November 16, 2012 9:35pm-10:00pm EST

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being able to work something out. gwen: but the post-election sparks are flying everywhere else. distinguished generals under fire, accused of inappropriate behavior. >> it was a very sad situation to have a distinguished career like that end in this manner. gwen: lawmakers pledging to get to the bottom of the benghazi attacks draw lines in the sand. >> we will do whatever is necessary to block the nomination that's within our power as far as susan rice is concerned. gwen: and the president pushes back. >> for them to go after the u.n. ambassador and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous. gwen: and mitt romney stirs intraparty recrimination with this post-election analysis. >> it's a proven political strategy, which is give a bunch of money from the government to a group and, guess what, they'll vote for you.
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the giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with. >> we need to stop being the dumb party. we don't win elections by insulting voters. gwen: it's the circle of political life. covering the week, david wessel of the "wall street journal," helene cooper of the "new york times." martha raddatz of abc news, and charles babington of the "associated press." >> award winning reporting and analysis covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill, produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ >> wherever it goes, the economy comes to life. norfolk southern, one line, infinite possibilities. >> we know why we're here. to connect our forces to what they need when they need it. >> to help troops see danger before it sees them. >> to answer the call of the brave and bring them safely home. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to support and protect all who serve. that's why we're here. >> corporate funding is also provided by prudential financial. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
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thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. no one got the chance to catch a post-election breath here in washington before all heck broke loose. filibuster threats, sex scandals, intraparty finger pointing, demands for watergate-style hearings and that's just in the last 48 hours. today at the white house, we saw what maybe a glimmer of hope from democrats and republicans who never agree, let alone appear on camera side by side. was it perhaps bipartisanship? >> it was a very constructive meeting. we had a recognition that every person in america knows that we must reach agreement. >> we are prepared to put revenue on the table provided we fix the real problem. gwen: in agreeing that they must avoid what has come to be known as the dreaded fiscal cliff, the
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congressional leaders used the world "constructive" once each to describe today's white house meeting and the white house used it twice in its official statement. so did we see any real movement today or was it all just rhetoric, david? >> well, i think the first thing we saw is that the two sides have agreed it's in their interests to agree reasonable. during the campaign, everybody wanted to be resolute in their position. now we're in the appearing reasonable thing. secondly, as we saw mitch mcconnell say, the republicans have conceded that taxes are going to go up. there remains this huge issue which was not as far as we could tell resolved or discussed today, is the president going to insist on raising tax rates on the rich, or will he come up with some other way to get money out of rich people that the republicans find more palatable, perhaps by limiting deductions or something. gwen: today, i flash back to the previous conversations, helene, in which everyone comes out at separate microphones and they're not saying nice things about one
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another. they're digging their heels in. instead we saw joshing around the table about john boehner's birthday between the president and john boehner. is it any different, or is this just about, i don't know, smoke and mirrors? >> well, i think the atmosphere is certainly different as you mentioned. in the past, these guys would go back to capitol hill and put out competing statements about what went on during the meetings. you saw what happened last year during the debt ceiling negotiations. this time it was one big happy family. there certainly seems to be some sort of recognition on the part of how fed up american people with sort of the seeing this game of chicken being played at such a high stakes time. i think there is certainly, after this election, there is kind of a let's get down to business. let's see if we can get this thing done. whether that can translate -- david just said, the biggest sticking point, taxes on the
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wealthy is still on the table. you can sing happy birthday to john boehner as much as you want. gwen: he would still say no. >> absolutely. i think it's really premature to try to predict what is going to happen here. we had a few days where everybody was jockeying for position trying to get their negotiating stance. we have this conversation today where as you point out they come out and hold hands. i tried to find another picture of the four congressional leaders outside the white house, i couldn't find one for the last year and a half. and then i think they kind of agreed on the shape of the table. we'll have to see, they don't have very much time. they're under a lot of pressure. i honestly think each side has decided that going over the cliff would make them look bad. if we go over the cliff, the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that are set to take effect at year-end unless something happens, it will probably be a miscalculation or one side has dug in. gwen: both sides are testing the
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optics of this? >> absolutely. >> they had competing statements in the past, but in the beginning, they were optimistic. >> right. gwen: does it really make a difference because this is the second time around, they really know they have to get something done? >> i think helene has it exactly right. on all sides, there is a sense they're standing with the american people is in trouble. people who don't agree on what they should do want them to compromise. secondly, we had an election and the president did win. the republicans are not any stronger than they were before. the president is taking advantage of that. third, there is this ticking time bomb of the fiscal cliff which makes it harder to just do nothing. gwen: this is sort of a sign, too, that we could actually end up getting into more trouble. the white house very much believes that president obama believes that nothing else, he has a mandate on the corporate, on the taxes, raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. it was a part of every single one of his stump speeches during the campaign.
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>> the testing. gwen: they're polling. >> you can't go to the white house without saying the exit polling say the americans agree with them. the people at the white house at the very least thinks that that message has gone through to the republicans, gotten through to the republicans. whether that's the case or not, that describes the circumstance for where we could be end up in a situation where we're standing on the edge of the cliff if the white house miscalculates how much the republicans are willing to back down on that. >> we use dire terms, ticking time bomb, edge of the cliff. some people say it might not be that bad if we get past the december 31 deadline them. talk to a slope. >> we got to a point in washington where you can't agree on the metaphors. obstacle course, look, if we get to the year with no deal, what happens? spending is supposed to be cut across the board indiscriminately by law and taxes are supposed to go up. the white house and treasury
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have a little wriggle room here. the lights don't go out across the federal government and uncle sam doesn't reach into everybody's paycheck right away. they can delay the withholding tables and spread out the cuts. if we're close to a deal, going over the cliff for a couple of weeks probably isn't such a big deal. if we go over for a long time, we have a recession. i think the problem is we get to the end of the year and they're still at odds and it looks like they can't agree, i think there will be a really adverse reaction from the financial markets and from the public because people think, well, these guys, they said they want -- >> and credit ratings. >> credit ratings. it was downgraded not because of the debt, but because of political dysfunction. gwen: an interesting thing to me, during the campaign, we started deciding what was important about the battleground states the candidates were going to based on where they actually physically went. we look at the president's physical schedule this week.
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he met with a group of liberals who he had been avoiding for other parts of the campaign. then he met with some cecis who came in. -- c.e.o.'s who came in. what was the message sent by who he chose to meet with this week? >> this was at the top of his agenda. this was a make nice session with the c.e.o.'s. they came a day after the labor leaders became. president obama has been beating up on these guys forever. he really needs now to patch things up. he opened the meeting telling them that he realized that, you know, there was a perception that he had been beating up on big business. >> a perception? >> that he didn't think that he really deserved that, but he wanted to move forward. he extended the olive branch. these guys came out of the white house saying we're ready to move forward as well. they want to be a part of the process and they know that they don't want to leave this to just the white house and congress as well. at the same time they were very
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much delivering their warning which is we cannot go, the economy can't afford to go over this cliff. you saw the wal-mart head talking about wal-mart shoppers need to know, they don't need any kind of uncertainty right now when they're going into the christmas season. business doesn't want to see this happen. gwen: and labor, it seems they may want the same thing, but for different reasons and in different ways. ultimately, they don't want to go over the cliff, they can't agree on how to stop that? >> that's right. the labor leaders were saying don't cut entitlements too much, mr. president. he explained why it's in our collective interest to get the deficit settled so we can do other things. the meetings show that the president last year had a very inside the white house strategy. he and john boehner sat down and the president had a beer and john boehner had his red wine and they got nowhere. the president is going to be much more visible this time. he is going to build a campaign for his position. we have already seen some people move from the obama presidential
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campaign to organizations that are standing behind him to raising taxes on the rich. this will be a much more public negotiation, or at least this part of it, and meeting with this people provides great theater for that public. >> didn't nancy pelosi say today they would have milestones along the way and that there might be miniature goals as we get to the end? >> yes. >> how do you see that playing out? >> well, i think that this, again -- gwen: is this part of the public? >> this is a sign they have to get this done. there is nobody right now on either side of the aisle who wants to see this happen. i think what you're seeing when harry reid, for instance, is standing there and practically promising that we're going to get a deal before december 31, he stood up there and said that today. they mean business. >> right. >> there are lots of pieces to this. i think what they agreed to today is divide into pieces. how do we deal with the end of the year problem on spending, what do we do about a longer term deficit thing.
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they're trying to set up a framework to get it done. gwen: the sequester is what they're going to talk about down the road? >> they're probably going to find a settlement for this year, whether they do $100 billion down payment on deficit reduction, which is one year's worth of the sequester while they talk about the longer term deficit picture. gwen: the week's other big story involved a growing scandal that has now tarnished two of the nation's most admired military men, general david petraeus forced to step down as c.i.a. director after admitting to an extramarital fair with his biographer testified in secret today on capitol hill about that failure and also about who who knew what during the benghazi attack. and general john allen's nomination to be the next commander of nato forces in europe has been put on hold as the pentagon inspector general investigates his friendship with another woman. add to that the escalating
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tension between israel and hamas and the head spins, martha. >> you need a flow chart for this week. incredible that one week ago tonight we learned about david petraeus and that he resigned as c.i.a. director and today he is up on capitol hill testifying about benghazi. of course, this happened september 11 of this year, the attack in benghazi. a lot of different stories right away about why that happened, how that happened, but it was susan rice, u.n. ambassador, i think it was five days later on the sunday talk shows saying that she thought it came as a result of some protests and because of the egyptian in cairo, there were protests about this anti-muslim film. the republicans have pounced on that. you heard john mccain and lindsey graham saying there is no way they want her to be secretary of state, nominated to secretary of state. everybody knew that it was terrorism. >> everybody knew it was terrorism. well, today, one of the things
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that david petraeus said is that he knew right away it was terrorism. and in the talking points, they took that out because it was classified and they talked about extremists. now susan rice says this began as a spontaneous, not premeditated response to what happened in cairo. i don't think her language was very careful. that's why they pounced on that language. i think things were slightly settled down today because you heard from dave petraeus because he said she was giving these talking points. i don't think it's settled down completely. i think you'll probably still see john mccain and lindsey graham. >> do you think she'll be secretary of state? >> i don't know. i don't know whether she'll be nominated. that is one of the things that president obama said yesterday. he said he hadn't decided. gwen: how about is this whether she was getting a nomination or how much of not letting him tell -- >> i can nominate anyone i want to. if i want to nominate susan rice, i will. but he certainly hasn't done that right, not put in stone, so
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we can't do that yet. i think certainly, i have seen a couple of very negative articles in the past 24 hours, too, about her. it sort of seems there is an effort to undermine that nomination. gwen: let's not forget the big story of the week -- >> yes! gwen: just one week ago even though i don't know what the question is anymore. we have women coming in and out who have passes to the bases who have secret clearance and have had computers taken from their homes. >> sisters and the letter by two generals about the twin sisters. gwen: the custody case. >> the custody case. gwen: let's sort of clear up where we are now. he resigned a week ago and what i saw this week is a lot of his surrogates, people who have known him and admired him are coming out to speak for him. it's almost like the rehabilitation of david petraeus one week later has become, has started in earnest.
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it really has. i really screwed up. that's the line that he has put out this week. this is terrible. i have done terrible things to my family. there are a lot of questions about the timeline of this. the surrogate said this week that it ended four months ago, and yet there are pictures of them at events together just a couple of weeks ago. he made a very strong point through the surrogates again to say this did not happen while he was in the army. >> aside from the soap opera aspects, do we know whether classified material was leaked or important classified material, is that clear or not? >> so far the f.b.i. seems per satisfied that david petraeus didn't leak any. again, he is saying he didn't give her any classified material. they found classified material on her computer. no matter what that classified material is, and believe me, the military in particular classifies everything including weather reports, whatever it is, it is illegal to take classified
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material home, to have it on your home computer. you just can't do that. and you saw the f.b.i. agents this week, earlier this week go to her home, take out all sorts of boxes. i'm sure they will look at all that and examine that. >> can we go back to the soap opera? general allen emails what -- >> what is going on there? >> much better, i have to admit. >> what is in those emails? >> those emails, you know, it started out with great drama this week. i think it was about 1:00 in the morning and leon panetta was traveling somewhere and you get electronic email saying that general allen is going to be investigated, the man in charge of the war in afghanistan and lots of things saying, yes, it was his -- the emails with jill kelley.
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it looked very bad. i thought he was finished. the next day the white house supported him saying we have faith in him. so i think they backed off on that a little, but they haven't cleared him yet. the person who is succeeding him in afghanistan, that is moving ahead? >> that is moving ahead. he already had a successor named. general allen is supposed to be head of nato. that's what's been held up. he could very well, they could very well pull the nomination. we'll have to see. >> if i know anything about this week, if i wake up tomorrow morning and there is a whole new story about this, i will not be surprised. >> and another woman no doubt. gwen: now, now. that's what a post-election week looks like. what about the second obama term? mitt romney for one was still mulling over his defeat offering these surprising words in a telephone call yesterday, or wednesday i guess it was to donors. >> the campaign was focused on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts
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from the government and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote. gwen: gifts. but at his first news conference since march, the president was the victor eyeing the spoils. >> i have got one mandate. identify got a mandate to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class. that's my mandate. that's what the american people said. i didn't get re-elected just to bask in re-election. i got elected to do work on behalf of american families. gwen: the president still has a line to walk. on the one hand, you hear mitt romney talking about gifts and you hear the president talking about i'm not basking in re-election. but one of them kind of is. >> i thought the president did walk a careful line in that news conference. he did just win an election. you didn't see him gloating. there was a bounce in his step.
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he did not do what george w. bush did after he won his re-election. i have political capital to spend, i'm going to spend it. it sounded a little boastful. bush tried to privatize social security. it was a giant wreck. it cast a pall over the second term. gwen: obama didn't say that, it was almost that i meant it, when you look at the priorities for his second term as he talked about. >> he is ambitious, he should be. we should perhaps stop using the word "mandates." it wasn't terribly long ago that ronald reagan won 49 states. that's a mandate. it's unthinkable that any candidate can win anywhere close to that. obama won a pretty impressive victory even without a serious third party candidate, he did not get 51% of the popular vote. he won 26 states to romney's 24 states. we'll see time after time very, very close elections.
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we need to rethink the negotiations of mandates and say this person won the presidency. they need to go forward with that agenda. >> what about the republicans? are they going to do a big rethink here? >> yes, and more than one. it was interesting that the republican governors happened to be meeting this week in las vegas when this news about the interesting comments that romney made to his donors that we just saw and the republican governors, bobby jindal of louisiana did not miss five seconds before they really denounced what romney was saying. the republicans have a lot of things to think about, not of which is their growing problem with hispanic voters. that is the big growing group in this country. republicans are still largely a party of white people and older white people. that group is getting smaller and smaller. they haven't figured out what to do yet, but they do know that talking about the people who vote against you, whether it be the 47% or they just like to get
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gifts is not the best way to get started. >> so, chuck, your president obama now and you have a second term. what is at the top of his agenda? how does he prioritize what he is going to do? >> first, obviously, the fiscal cliff that you're talking about is the big thing on his plate right now. it will determine so much what happens after that. i think the big possibility that could sort of rival health care which was the big accomplishment in the first term, for all of the problems that he had, it would be immigration reform. he talked a good bit about that in the news conference. it would be a big, big achievement that past presidents have not been able to do. one thing that might help is because of the political reasons we were just talking about, republicans might start getting onboard. we still got a lot of details to go, but that might be the big new goal for that term. gwen: chuck, what president obama will we see in the second term? he is criticized sometimes for
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being cool and remote, reaching out this weekend, which one? >> he is still no drama obama. so i don't think you'll see a change in personality. one thing he has learned and we're seeing it now in the fiscal cliff, don't sit back and wait for congress. that happened early on in the health care negotiations. it caused him all kinds of trouble. he can get out front and be assertive. gwen: that is assuming israel and hamas don't blow each either up over the weekend and some other distraction ends up on the presidential plate. we have to leave you now. the conversation continues online on the "washington week" webcast. we're going to talk about the stories we covered this year that made us the most thankful. keep up with daily developments with me on the pbs news hour and we'll see you right here again next week on "washington week." have a wonderful thanksgiving. next week on "washington week." have a wonderful thanksgiving. good night.


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